Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thomas the Skinner

As mentioned in a previous post, Thomas Henchman, who resided in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, England during the latter part of the 16th century, was a Skinner and a member of the Skinners Guild of London. The Bishops' Visitation of London 1633-34 declares him to have that occupation. Microfilmed records of apprentice bindings and freedoms for that guild were examined in the time frame 1496 to 1624. Thomas was accepted as an apprentice in February 1574 for a period of 10 years. He is identified as Thomas Crosborowe als Hensman, son of Thomas Crosborowe of Wellingboro, Northamptonshire.
There is a legend that a Thomas Crosborough saved the life of the king on a boar hunt and the king declared "Truly thou art my veritable Henchman," whereupon Thomas changed his name to Henchman. Some sources have identified the king as Henry VII (1485-1509) and others say Edward IV (1461-1483).
This entry in the Skinners' records appears to contradict that scenario. When Thomas Crosborowe als Hensman became an apprentice, at least 65 years had passed since the death of Henry VII, and almost 100 years since the death of Edward. Thomas' father was still using the Crosborowe variant of the Crosborough surname. Additionally, the surname adopted by the Northamptonshire Crosboroughs was Hensman, not Henchman. It appears that Thomas' generation was the first to adopt the Hensman surname. It is not until the baptism of Anne Henchman in Burton Latimer in 1584 that the Henchman spelling was found in records. Since spelling variations were very common until well into the 19th century, it is possible that the scribe at that parish spelled it that way because that was what he heard. The last child of Thomas Henchman baptized at that church has the spelling Henceman (different scribe?)
So, it appears that the legend is just that. The boar hunt certainly could have happened. The history of the county points to the presence of royal retreats in that county and there was an abundance of wildlife, which the kings hunted for sport. A Crosborough certainly could have been involved in at least one of those hunts and may have even saved the life of the king. That's where possible reality ends and probable fiction begins.

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